Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
One of the reasons I was not really interested in Hinduism was because, very unlike Christianity or Islam, we had so many scriptures and ancient texts. I did not know where to get started. I had listened to a few talks on the Bhagavat Gita and read a few chapters earlier, but I was not able to fit them into the bigger picture. I always wondered why our sages made understanding religion so difficult. Little did I know about the organisation of Vedic literature and the fact that there was something in it for every kind of person – those well versed in Sanskrit, those with little or no knowledge of the Vedas, and even to those who were uneducated (the Truths were conveyed to them through the stories of the Tantras and the two epics of Mahabharatam and Ramayanam).
In the book, Swami Bhaskarananda speaks at length about life and the Hindu society in general. Though he has quoted from ancient scriptures, most of what he has written about the stages of life, women, children, marriages, death, food and the Hindu ethics remain true even in our world today. In very simple language, he explains the various ways one can see God – right from the Nirguna Brahman (the Supreme Being without form, quality and attributes), to the more commonly revered Ishvars/ deities in Hinduism. Again we find two levels of worship which is prescribed in our scriptures. Those who can understand and relate to the ‘formless’ God can choose so, others who need some physical association with him, can choose fromm the thousands of deities we have, each of whom have qualities all of us need to emulate. The Advaita philosophy, where you see yourself as a part of the Reality itself, has a more atheist/ humanist view. In essence, there is something in Hinduism for atheists, agnostics, spiritual-ists and ritual-ists.
There are chapters in the book, explaining the Hindu thoughts on death, karma, reincarnations and predestination. These were concepts that always baffled me. I used to ask myself why we Hindus were so obsessed about death. I believe now that we have every reason to ponder about death, the common friend each one of us has, right from the time we are born. The Buddhists put it simply as ‘All beings tremble before danger; all fear death’. If there is some system that uproots this fear, why not learn about it? The explanations of these concepts, given by Swami ji in this book, can very easily be comprehended by even a novice to the field. I remember during one of the first Vedic Society meetings I attended here at Edinburgh I had asked why we study religion and put an effort to understand the scriptures and so on. I had been, like many of us, conditioned to think that we ought to get something out of what we do. Through Swami ji’s take on Realization and Moksha, I really feel that maybe there is something above all this that we see today. This will remain not-understood until we make an attempt to learn and accept.
This is what I have learnt from my very short experience in Hinduism that I have. If ever some Hindu talks about how not-so-good or complex the religion is - it is purely out of ignorance. Because he has not tried to understand it. I know this because I was one among them until a few months back. This book is a nice starting point for all of us to get a taste of what Hinduism has to offer. I was quite surprised at reading about what world thinkers had to say about Hinduism and the Indian culture, which is included in the book. For the people who still have doubts regarding Hinduism, I would suggest that you start with this section in the appendix. When such world renowned figures speak so much about Hinduism, shouldn't there be something in it that we have missed?
Saturday, October 03, 2009
6050 people have been affected with the swine flu in India out of which 173 died (as of 13 September 2009). Most of the people who have been infected are ones who either had been abroad or had been in contact with someone who had been abroad. In simply words, it was predominantly among the more affluent. And that is exactly the reason it managed to get such a proportion of prime time coverage in the media. The media houses catering to this stratum of the society went into ‘emergency’ mode.
I would have been happy with the media’s vociferous take on swine flu if they had not been turning a blind eye to the Indians dying every minute due to TB or to the 1250 Indians dying daily because of diarrhea-related diseases, both of which are very much curable. The media do not see such ‘uninteresting’ statistics.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Navarathri is divided into sets of three days to honour three different aspects of the Mother. During the first three days, we pray to Durga (or Kali), who is the destroyer of all our impurities, our vices. Then for three days, the Mother is worshipped as Lakshmi, who bestows upon us spiritual wealth. The final three days are spent in worshipping Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom.
According to the great Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, Lord Rama performed a Holy prayer to invoke the blessings of Durga Maa to ensure success in bringing back his wife Sita from Ravana who had abducted her. The day, in Ramayana, when Rama vanquishes Ravana is celebrated as Dusshera (also known as Vijayadashami), which is the day after the nine nights of worship. During the nine days many in India fast. Fasting is seen as one of the best methods to improve one’s self control and overcome one’s desires. The fast, which is performed in the name of Durga, is akin to the prayer by Lord Rama. On Vijayadashami, Ravana, who symbolises our vices and desires, is finally conquered.
A prayer for the Mother –
Ya devi sarva bhooteshu matru roopena samsthita
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaha - Devi mahathmyam
Salutations to the divine mother,
Whose art manifest in every being's existence.
As mother, I worship thee, over and over and over again.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Spelling out 'Sainath Lakshminarayanan' for the Natwest bank was the best training I could get. I got so lost that evening. I could not get any word for L. L for ... for ... LOVE! Yes that is the only thing I got to say to that Natwest lady.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The most noticeable structure that can be seen from my kitchen window is a church tower. It stands out from the large number of small houses that my neighbourhood is studded with.
One evening, I was watching the sun set, sipping some tea. The church clock’s bell rang, which caught my attention. I looked in its direction, expecting to see the old church tower. I could not see it that day. I thought my senses were failing me. I knew that the Edinburgh Council, which does not allow us to even change a broken window (that is how they ‘preserve’ their heritage), would never bring down a church tower.
It is then I observed something. There was a huge tree that had come in the way. I had never seen the tree earlier. Or had I? Maybe I had seen the church tower through the skeletal structure of the very same tree. That evening, dense green foliage stood in place of the life-less autumn tree.
Someone knocked at our door that evening. It was spring.
Monday, April 13, 2009
When I reached here, I learnt that there is a bicycle recycling and cycling promotion charity called the Bike Station at Edinburgh. There, they take old and discarded bikes out of landfill, repair as many as they can, and put them back on the roads. Every Saturday, between 10 am and noon, they sell these refurbished cycles to people. I thought of going there to buy a second hand cycle (when a new cycle would cost greater than £150, second hand cycles can be bought for as less as £40).
I went there on three consecutive Saturdays. The first time I reached the place at 10:30 or so. There was a huge queue. I hadn’t foreseen the demand for second hand cycles, especially during the time of the year when a lot of new students like me had landed in the city. I stood in the queue for some time and then, realizing that there was no way I was going to get a bike that day, left. The next week, I went there early. That week the number of cycles they had to sell were very few and by the time my turn came, there weren’t any cycles left.
The third Saturday, I went even earlier, to make sure that I get a favourable place on the queue. For a change, I was in the first group that was allowed to enter the garage. It was a square room, with cycles kept along the walls. I kept looking at the price tag (the most important factor to be considered!) of the cycles along one side. I saw one for £55. It looked in good condition. I knew the cost was reasonable. But my mind said, ‘Check out the other bikes too. There might be something cheaper, better’. I went around the room looking at the other cycles kept. Did not find anything that suited my budget. By the time I came back for the £55 cycle, someone else had taken it. The Bike Station had taught me the first lesson I learnt in Edinburgh.
How many times in our lives have we kept things waiting for the proverbial sunnier day? We keep living with the want – the want of a better day. We seldom see the beauty of the blank slate given to us each morning.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
1. During a talk show in CNN IBN, which Rajdeep Sardesai hosted, one of the panellists, when talking about the middle class of West Bengal said, ‘The middle class of India is the most untrustworthy. More than half of them do not even come to vote.’(Not quoted verbatim).
2. Tarun Vijay (columnist for the Times of India and editor for an RSS weekly) spoke of the ‘English speaking and writing middle class’ as being ones who ‘discuss big issues, but do little; expecting others to make the changes’. (Again, this is the gist of an article he had written).
Now, if you are reading this message, you are a part of the ‘untrustworthy English speaking and writing middle class of India’.
I do not want the ‘middle class’ to prove these commentators wrong. But I want our people to get involved. Let’s make the choice today, which will define where we stand tomorrow. Let’s all go to the polling station on Election Day. Jai Hind!
Saturday, March 07, 2009
I am sure things are improving in India; our actions on this front might accelerate the change.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Now things are different. I don't know whether it is because I did not want to hear anything like what the lady said again, or it was because I started cycling more than walking. But today, the people seem to be slow (relatively!).
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Today I would say, 'Yes, that indeed is warm!'.